Socially constructed technology

Inquiry 43 (2):217 – 224 (2000)
Abstract
The main innovation in Questioning Technology is Feenberg?s use of the results of various social constructivist accounts of science and technology to rethink the philosophy of technology. I agree with Feenberg that the social constructivist studies developed by historians and sociologists refute the essentialist account of technology that has been the mainstream position of philosophers of technology. The autonomy of technology seems to be nothing but a myth from the point of view of social construction, since social and political factors always influence decisions made in technology and science. However, there is a tension in Feenberg?s position, in that he seems to want to keep the general analytical framework that the essentialist account of technology makes available, while at the same time rejecting essentialism and, indeed, showing forcefully how it gets in the way of the positive program he develops for democratizing technology. I argue that Feenberg should clarify what kind of social constructive account of technology he will adopt, and that the general categories for understanding technology that Feenberg retains are problematic. I conclude by arguing that a thoroughgoing antiessentialist philosophy of technology can still provide a general analysis of modernity and develop normative claims including those regarding social justice, without relying on general categories.
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